What Is Biblical Fiction? 5-Step Complete Guide For Newcomers

Posted on Oct 5, 2023

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Written by Sarah Rexford

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What is biblical fiction, and how can you branch out into this genre? This is a complete guide for newcomers. I answer your pressing questions so that rather than spend time looking for the answers, you can spend your time writing. 

Before diving into this article, it’s important to not just ask, what is biblical fiction, but define exactly what it is. If you enjoy reading historical fiction, chances are you may have stumbled across this genre without fully realizing it.   

What Is Biblical Fiction? What You Learn:

Definition: Is Biblical Fiction A Genre?

Biblical fiction is a sub-genre of historical fiction, drawing setting, plot, and characters from the Bible. Writers who focus on this book genre use characters from the Bible and expand upon their dialogue, actions, and character arcs.  

While historical fiction focuses on events and characters from the past, Biblical fiction hones in on events and people specific to the time period of the Bible. Christian romance can even be a part of biblical fiction.

Just as historical fiction writers use source material to inspire their work, writers focusing on biblical fiction use the Bible and various other historical writings to provide context for their novels. 

What Are Biblical Fiction Tropes?

Biblical fiction employs tropes such as the wise mentor, the antihero, and the femme fatale, among others. The Bible is the bestselling book of all time, and drawing inspiration from these historical figures provides countless character ideas. 

For instance, consider Moses looking to the advice of his father-in-law, Jethro (the wise mentor). Look at Jonah, the protagonist of the book named after him, who was naturally self-focused but in the end, fulfilled his calling (an antihero). 

Delilah, Samson’s lover, seduced him into divulging his deepest secret (a femme fatale). Revealing his secret changed his life forever.

In addition to recognizing how biblical individuals fit today’s tropes, you can take biblical fiction tropes a step further by using biblical individuals to inspire fictional tropes. For instance, Cain and Abel are known for their interpersonal rivalry. You could use these brothers to inspire fictional characters set in the same time period. 

So then, what is biblical fiction that writers create based on the Bible?

Famous Authors And Books

How do you write a book about your faith? How do you write a book about Christianity, but through fiction?

Francine Rivers wrote Redeeming Love, strongly based on the biblical book of Hosea. Rivers successfully wrote in the general market until transitioning to biblical fiction.

Published in 1997, Redeeming Love is considered her statement of faith and is the debut novel in her new genre. More than two decades later, it is still a top-selling title. 

Lazarus Is Dead, by Richard Beard, is another standout answer to the question, what is biblical fiction? Beard focuses on the interpersonal friendship between Jesus and Lazarus. You can use spiritual writing prompts to help draft this type of fiction.

A New York Times bestseller, Christ The Lord: Out Of Egypt, recounts the life of Jesus from age seven to eight. Written by Anne Rice, this book is widely acclaimed and heavily based on the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. 

Elizabeth George Speare authored The Bronze Bow, which was published in 1961. Loved by readers, it won the Newbery Medal the following year.

This novel answers the question, what is biblical fiction when it doesn’t star a biblical character? Speare’s protagonist, Daniel, is completely fictional, but engages with Jesus. This well-researched, inspiring take on biblical fiction keeps readers turning pages. 

How To Get Started Writing Biblical Fiction 

What is biblical fiction from the perspective of the writer? Just as historical fiction entails quite a bit of research, so does the subgenre of biblical fiction. Once you answer the question, what is biblical fiction, it’s time to get started writing it. Here are a few steps to equip you to write your draft.

Research The Specific Time Period

If you want to write about a moment in one of the gospels, your research will look different than if you choose to write about the Isrealite’s exodus from Egypt.

Once you choose the exact time period you want to write on, conduct more research than you think you’ll need. Knowing the culture of the time period will help you craft a more realistic novel. 

Read The Context 

Next, if you decide to write about a specific biblical individual, read everything you can on them. If you decide to create a fictional character and place that character in a specific time frame, read the context of that time frame. For help seeing how either can be done, consider reading The Centurion’s Wife by Janette Oke.

Layer In Cultural Details 

What is biblical fiction without cultural details applied to the characters? In ancient Rome, a Roman soldier could demand a citizen carry his gear for a full mile. 

In The Bronze Bow, Speare uses this detail to add tension to her plot. In fact, this one detail impacts her characters in a dangerous way. By layering in cultural details, you can not only add tension to your story, but establish yourself as a credible author.

Prioritize Authentic Relationships 

What one culture considers proper, another one may not. When asking, what is biblical fiction, it’s important to consider follow-up questions as well:

  • How did single women interact with men?
  • How did married couples engage with each other?
  • What did family dynamics look like?

The more you create interpersonal dynamics that acknowledge the cultural norms of the biblical period, the better your fiction will be. For reference on how to use cultural norms to create tension, read John 4. In this chapter, Jesus breaks cultural norms to engage with a woman in need.

What Is Biblical Fiction As It Applies To You?

Your answer to this question depends on what type of novel you want to write. Writing biblical fiction comes after answering the foundational question, what is biblical fiction? But now that you know the definition, different tropes, and famous authors and books in this genre, you can take your next step. 

It’s time to identify what type of biblical fiction book you want to write. To ensure you start off well, ask yourself the following: 

  • Do I want to write biblical fiction about a biblical individual?
  • Do I want to write biblical fiction and create a fictional protagonist? 

Once you know who to cast as your protagonist, you can start your research and drafting. Who you cast as your hero will influence your research process. If you decide to write about a historical figure, make sure to base their character arc on facts. Of course, since you will be writing biblical fiction, you can take some creative liberties. 

If you decide to create a completely fictional character, you can build them out however best fits your story and the setting you place them in. In The Bronze Bow, Daniel stars as a completely fictional protagonist who embarks on his own character journey. However, in Christ The Lord: Out Of Egypt, Jesus’s childhood is created, based on the gospels. 

To help you start your journey, access the free creative writing resource below. Afterward, look into various Christian publishers and self-publishing options. Best wishes as you begin, and happy writing!

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